Text: Paul van der Zalm

One day the COVID chapter must be closed, but now we cannot avoid it. Indeed, today sees the release of Blondshell’s self-titled debut album, which is the direct result of the metamorphosis that Sabrina Teitelbaum, thrown back on herself, went through during that period. Before that, she released work under the stage name BAUM, but it wasn’t very convincing.

On the last day of 2019, she had already decided to change course by quitting alcohol and drugs and she then used lockdowns to write off her frustrations unfiltered, when she had no idea of releasing any of it. However, that changed when family and friends responded positively that they recognised her completely in the lyrics and producer Yves Rothman (Yves Tumor, Girlpool, Porches) encouraged her to make an album out of it. The American (previously New York, now Los Angeles) chose the name Blondshell because she wanted to create a feminine yet strong persona that reflected her music and personality.

In June 2022, the first result was the intriguing single Olympus, in which 25-year-old Teitelbaum looks back at “the chaos of being 21 or 22 and not knowing who I am, so I’m trying to have fun at every single moment.” It is a fairly quiet song with bright guitar sounds in which her low vocals are backed by a high vocal melody. Partisan Records (from Fontaines D.C. to Cigarettes After Sex), managed to sign her in December.

The most honest song (quite revealing, according to her sister) Teitelbaum wrote in isolation and is called Kiss City, in which she fantasises about love. After a relaxed, resignedly sung beginning, the button flips and she sings full out. After a period of isolation, it is hard to rejoin the social scene. This is what the closing track Dangerous is about, sung beautifully and honestly over a simple guitar theme. In a completely different vein, there is Veronica Mars (the name of a TV series), which Teitelbaum insisted on opening the album with and in which she states that at a young age she would have liked to be shielded from influences she was not yet ready for, because they so determined her later perception of relationships and her view of men in particular. It is a strong song of less than 2 minutes, the second half of which is filled in by a screeching guitar.

Musically, Joiner is a sweet, Britpop-inspired song, but that contrasts sharply with the lyrics, which are about trying to save people who need to score drugs and sleep in bars. That that doesn’t work out for everyone is then apparent from Sober Together, which sounds a bit jazzy à la British singer Celeste.

Love and relationships take centre stage in Sepsis (it can hit you like poisoning) and Tarmac, a textual and musical rollercoaster that ends with a fine guitar solo.

The anger that is underlying throughout the album is fully expressed in (Put Some Poison in His) Salad, about how even the most peaceful people can get homicidal when it comes to transgressive behaviour by men who think they can be allowed anything. Here, Teitelbaum harks back to her own example of an acquaintance of hers, and you sense that it really affects her. Musically too, this is a rich and powerful song of anthem proportions, with a tribal rhythm and preceded by some xylophone sounds, making it the highlight of the multi-faceted album.

It has already been well received by magazines like Rolling Stone and The Guardian, and NME even labels Teitelbaum as “the alt-rock hero that the future deserves”.

Partisan Records / Mattan Records

P.S.: In addition to the album, Blondshell also released a cover version of Disappointment by The Cranberries.